Expat Magazine

Making It up as We Go: Domestic Pet Care in Morocco

By Quinninmorocco

In some ways, being a responsible global citizen is easier in Morocco. Eating locally-grown fruits, veggies, and meats is the rule rather than the exception, public transportation is ample and extensive, and plastic bags were just outlawed in favor of sustainable alternatives.

There are a few items excluded from this list—pet ownership is definitely one of them.

I’ve already written about what joyous reactions even the friendliest of leashed dogs typically elicits on the streets of Morocco. But when it comes to the western definition of responsible pet ownership, Morocco has landed me in a sort of darkly-hilarious game of tiered-obstacles to overcome for even the simplest of tasks.


Our firstborn, a street cat named Simouche (“Mr. Cat”), served as our trial run with a local vet. Simouche was easily vaccinated during his first visit. A few months later, when we took him in to be neutered, it was a quick snip, and that cat was running around our house in his normal, slightly-crazed manner within hours.


Straightforward and not too expensive—just how I like things. Our lovely dog, however, has commanded her own narrative.

Sia has been a bit of a medical wonder from the beginning. She’s battled worms and stomach bugs, literal bugs (ticks), kennel foot, and an ongoing inability to gain weight. Our vets have been nothing if not steadfast and friendly in their responses to all of these maladies.

Not eating and steadily losing weight? “It’s nothing serious,” they assured us with a smile.

“Oh, phew, that’s good to know!” we responded. “So what exactly is wrong with her?”

“Don’t worry, it’s nothing serious!”

“That’s fantastic, we’re so happy….but what’s wrong with her?”

“You all have nothing to worry about, nothing at all. We’re just going to give her this shot and she’ll be fine.”

To this day, we still have no idea what specifically was ailing our dog—only that she would be totally fine and it wasn’t a big deal. To be fair, they were completely correct in that assessment.

After kenneling Sia at the vet for two weeks while we enjoyed stretching our legs in America, we returned to find our dog in a rather strange condition: her spirits were high, but her legs were…well, bent. The lower tendons on all four of her feet loosened in a way that gave her comically-long paws. “The vet didn’t say anything about this?” the stupid American asked when her husband brought the dog home from the vet.

“Well, they did tell us to give her this calcium…”

On cue, he pulled two containers of powdered calcium out of a bag. Mix this into her water twice a day, the vet apparently told us. “But did he say why, exactly?” the idiot American insisted on knowing. Shrugs. “He didn’t really explain why, he just told me to do it, that she needed it.”

Time to phone a friend. I called home in an effort to get some insight on the situation, since obviously that wasn’t going to come from our vet. I sent pictures of the dog’s bent legs and inquired about the calcium. The response:

“I have no idea why her legs are bent—that’s weird. I’ve never seen it before.”

“And the calcium?”

“Did they perform any blood work on her?”


“Yeah, then I have no idea about that either.”

Medical mystery number two, never solved. Sia’s legs eventually straightened out, even though we gave up on the calcium a week or two into a very half-hearted effort to follow the vet’s vague directions. She’s fine…as far as we can tell.

Our most recent medical rendezvous has proved to be the most perplexing episode to date. We had always planned on getting Sia fixed. For me, it was never a question; that’s just what you do when you get a pet. For M, I think he was quickly convinced once he saw Sia’s propensity towards indoor defecation—he didn’t want those genes to be passed on to future dog generations, especially not in our house.

When we asked the vet about the process after bringing home a 2 month old puppy, he told us that we needed to wait until she was 6 months old. Question mark? 6 months? I dug into the recesses of my aging memory to remember how old all of our family animals had been when they got fixed and couldn’t remember. 6 months just seemed…incorrect. But hey, my degrees are in nothing that have to do with animals or science. I will defer to the experts.

We went ahead and arranged for the surgery to happen last week. Sia came home, wrapped up and still a little woozy from the anesthesia. A change of her bandages revealed something odd: there were two incision sites, one on either side of her stomach. I had never seen this before. All of my own animals had gotten sliced up the middle of their belly. Maybe this side-thing is the French technique, I thought. A quick Google search revealed nothing. A lengthier Google search also revealed nothing. A message to another Google of sorts (dad) to ask around the vet school about the technique revealed nothing as well—as in none of the vets knew anything about this methodology. I believe the exact reaction he received to the query was, in his words, “aghast.”


At this point, we’re stumped. Our learned deference to those with areas of expertise different than ours led to two very different conclusions, and left us wondering if the veterinary degrees acquired by our charming and positive doctors were from Bob’s Online University of Animal Stuff. Meanwhile, Sia was licking the shit out of her side-wounds because the cone that they gave her was too small—significantly. “Just leave it on,” the vet responded when we let them know it wasn’t quite working.

But why……oh, never mind. We left it on for giggles for a day or two more, and then it found a new home in the trash can.

A few days passed, and Sia seemed to be on the mend. We may or may not have wrapped her in duct tape for a golden day or two in lieu of a functional cone. This resulted in her side-wounds healing and her spirits returning. Along with her spirits, though, we found a lump. A rather large, random lump on the back of her neck. And then another lump on her right front shoulder. And blood in her pee. And then just a lot of blood in general. “Oh, don’t worry about that,” the vet assured us over the phone. “The whole blood thing is happening just because she was in heat when I spayed her.”


We didn’t even get a chance to address the hunchback of Notre Dame lumps growing all over our poor dog’s body. Spayed? While in heat?! Bob’s Online University of Animal Stuff kept throwing wrenches into my previous understanding of pet health and care 101. The vet’s solution to what I think he interpreted to just being an inconvenience (and to be fair, it is totally inconvenient to have an indoor pet bleeding everywhere) was to prescribe medicine to stop the bleeding. Medicine. For the dog who is bleeding because she had a surgery to remove her ovaries and uterus (I assume) when she was in heat.

This is where I pause and I wonder.

Perhaps our lack of alignment in terms of healthcare stems from a lack of alignment in theory about household pets…? Maybe our vet is responding to what he believes our view is as pet owners…? Is this simply an “agree to disagree” situation?

As I wonder, I re-learn about lymph nodes and how they swell up to fight off infection, possibly explaining the lumps and their sudden, dramatic cameos. And I hang out with my dog, who is healing, and my cat, who had healthcare under the same vet and is happy as a clam. Being a responsible pet owner in Morocco is a strange dimension to play in—but at least there are lumpy, bloody, happy animals in there to play with.


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